HIDDEN WINE presents

Minnesota Mens Conference

Thomas R. Smith, poet, teacher

Thomas R. Smith is an internationally respected poet, essayist, and editor, whose writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US, Canada, and abroad. His work was chosen for The Best American Poetry 1999 edited by Robert Bly. His poems have also been featured on Garrison Keillor’s national public radio show The Writer's Almanac and in former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry. Smith is author of five books of poems, Keeping the Star, Horse of Earth, The Dark Indigo Current, Winter Hours, and Waking Before Dawn. His poetry criticism has appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and many other periodicals. In April of 2009 he presented a talk about Robert Bly and the men’s movement at the University of Minnesota’s symposium, “Robert Bly in This World.” Thomas R. Smith is a Master Track instructor at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Overhead, the hawk circled
in clear September air,
sun blotting through his banded
wing-feathers, hovered near, came
down. Was something wrong? We
strode to the edge of the field
where he settled on his belly,
pebbled grey wings extended,
yellow feet drawn up behind him,
his red eyes pure wild sparks.
He panted, his only movement.
We squatted near, talked to him,
feared he was hurt or dying.
But this was September and

our camp on his migratory
route. After resting, he drew
himself together, as though
with a single magic word
reassembling scattered parts,
and lifted again, light-infused,
nearly weightless. And that was
the last we saw of him who
had dropped here fatigued a moment
among men who also pressed chests
to earth, obeying gravity
that brought us low, vulnerable,
remembering flight, our wings
stretched out in each others’ presence.

—from Kinnickinnic, Parallel Press
—copyright 2007 Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved

The work of Thomas R. Smith:



"Thomas R. Smith is a high-spirited poetry horse riding over the hills of emotion." --Robert Bly

Thomas R. Smith says of his teaching: "Like many teachers, I teach what I myself would like to learn. Fear causes us to close and shield our hearts. Poetry can be a powerful counterforce to fear, but there is no formula for making it so. Together we explore the way, poem by poem."


Waking Before Dawn- 2007
more information at Red Dragonfly Press

Winter Hours by Thomas R. Smith (Paperback 2005)

The Dark Indigo Current: Poems (Paperback- 2000)

Horse of Earth by Thomas R. Smith (Paperback - Jul 1994)

Walking Swiftly: Writings & Images on the Occasion of Robert Bly's 65th Birthday by Thomas R. Smith (Hardcover - Sep 1992)


One summer evening
the year we found each other
in the dark of Wisconsin,
we sat on your porch drinking
glasses of chilled white wine.
How quickly the August heat
stole into them as we
fingered perspiring stems!
Afterward I’d walked nearly
two blocks from the amber-
lit steps of that house where
next autumn we’d both live,
when I heard you behind me
as if called by my longing
for you, running breathlessly
to press in my palm strawberries
still cold from your icebox.

Now the simple days and nights
when we stood revealed
in each other’s light
for the first time
are gone, gone as the sleepless
affection of those weeks.
I will not mourn them—
they were seeds that entered
earth to make a place
for our desire to grow.
You brought those first fruits
of a summer’s plenty
to my open palm, and
blossoms that gave brief glories
to the bedsides of our loving.

The harvests already taken
are alive in the new harvest.
And the strawberries
of that summer night so long ago
whose red pulp passed from chill
to warm on my tongue and then,
in new-found boldness given
with a kiss, on yours,
shine in us still,
red constellation by which
we reckon our position,
begin again to lose our fear
and find once more original courage
that brought us near in the beginning.

—from Horse of Earth, Holy Cow! Press
—copyright 1994 Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved


Keep this star for when you lose the world,
when grief and desire become a blurred door
that floats away across a plain room
without books or kisses.
Look to what grows dark beyond the walls,
that in night which holds the blue sky
singing in its black embrace.
It’s all spun around a necessary star,
star of prisons. Keep it:
It has the power to burst from dull thoughts,
breathe in airless colors,
and roll back the filth of our neglect.
Let it pour through the chimney hole
patched with tin! Unloved objects—
empty jars, faces in clippings,
balls of hair spurned by the brush—
all the children of failure
will step forward in its blinding wind,
sons and daughters of that before which
there is no trivial being.

—from Keeping the Star, New Rivers Press
—copyright 1988 Thomas R. Smith


It’s like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.

The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.

The theft that could have happened doesn’t.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.

And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can’t read the address.

—from Waking Before Dawn, Red Dragonfly Press
—copyright 2006, Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved

Peace Vigil

Poems for an Election Year

Thomas R. Smith


Approaching a City by Air
Woman Calling in September
People Falling
Peace Vigil
Coming Back to Sorrow
The Old Country
The Dark
Yard Signs

The following selected poems on this page are from Thomas R. Smith's chapbook Peace Vigil:


Water stands inches deep on the basement floor,
and all I have is a snow shovel with a bent,
beat-up blade. I’m angry, shoveling water,
futility wrapped around me like wet

laundry from my mother’s old wringer washer.
Suddenly someone pokes me mid-back.
I turn, startled to see my father,
smiling though he’s been dead for seven years.

"Hi", he says, the only speech in the dream,
but enough to fully evoke his
boyishness, the shyness with which
a friendly eight-year-old might approach

a stranger, hoping for friendliness
in return. "Hi." It’s much larger than a two-
letter word the way he speaks it, it’s a whole
attitude toward life, it’s his literal

youthfulness—he’s about thirty, a full
generation younger than I, his son, and
wears a handsome and uncharacteristic
mustache grown in his relaxed new phase. . . .

* * *

The radio alarm set to a classical
music station arpeggios me awake . . .
The whole time I’m shaving, showering,
eating breakfast, I carry my father

inwardly, until the newscaster’s voice
crashes his fading grin, a fiery door
flung open to the other world, through
which storms of terrified souls are leaving. . . .

September 11, 2001

—copyright 2001 Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved


It’s one thing to watch the explosions
on TV, the smoke flagging its black
united nations of grief, hydrangeas of
flame in horrible exfoliation,

but another to see the photographs
of the people who chose to jump
rather than suffer incineration in that
relentlessly collapsing inferno.

Thirteen seconds to drop from the upper
stories, hitting pavement not with a moist
thud of meat but the dry, almost metallic
fury of every fiber shattering . . .

During the Cuban missile crisis,
Dylan sang, Let me die in my footsteps
before I go down under the ground. That song
comes to mind as I’m glancing at a Time

Magazine photo in which, very high up
and small, a man and woman hold hands
as they plummet past the windowless, sheer
wall that can do nothing to help them,

that in fact can do nothing to prevent
its own falling, soon to follow. Lovers?
Friends? Or merely strangers brought together
by desperation in the last minutes of life?

How your leap, leaving behind everything
but the touch of another’s hand, tears
my heart open again, that was closed
by fear and anger, my heart that is torn

and held together by your hopeless clasp.

—copyright 2001 Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved


In the park our circle of lights grew,
passersby drawn to its silence in the deepening
dusk. The dark spaces between us filled in
with candle-flames cupped against the wind.
In the center we did what the government
wouldn’t, invited Peace, and she appeared.
A young man, cannon fodder age, shouted
from his truck, “Fuck you! Bomb Iraq!” Our
silence bent but didn’t break. We stood
in a place of skulls. Mostly sadness
for the poverty of it, the smallness
and “pity of war.” But anger too,
reminding us that the war is inside
everyone now, a war we must be
prepared at any moment not to fight.

—copyright 2001 Thomas R. Smith, all rights reserved

back to MN Men's Conference information page

email: hiddenwine@earthlink.net

Camp Miller
Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota
Contact: Craig Ungerman
Phone: (860) 923-6987

hiddenwine past events | current events

HIDDEN WINE p r e s e n t s. . . . .